Are Pau Gasol's Struggles Due to Age or Mike D'Antoni's System?
On a team hindered by injuries, poor chemistry, and aging players, Pau Gasol is the representation of all of the Los Angeles Lakers' struggles. That's not to say he is the epitome of their woes. Gasol is merely facing all three of these key issues.
Gasol's sub-par performance thus far has been due to a combination of his age, lingering injuries to his knees, adversity in terms of conforming to the Lakers' system and a concussion to top things off.
Consider the injury Gasol had to deal with this season. With knee tendinitis issues, it was hard for him to get going in any sort of system.
Gasol's greatest strengths lie in his ability to post up. It's hard for him to establish position in the low post with knees that can't give him the strength needed to back down defenders.
Although it's common knowledge that many NBA players have lingering injury woes, the fact that his knee pains hinder his greatest strength make it very difficult for him to score effectively.
In terms of the high post, Gasol's ability to hit the open jumper or blow by a slower defender are both mitigated by these knee issues. The only high-post weapon he still uses effectively is his excellent passing ability. Averaging 3.8 assists per game, the Spaniard is averaging the second highest assist rate of his career.
This shows that Gasol has taken advantage of his passing prowess to try to compensate for his struggles in almost every other aspect of his offensive game.
Despite his efforts to overcome his injuries, Gasol faces further adversity in the form of Mike D'Antoni's offensive system.
D'Antoni's system requires the Lakers to push the break, shoot the first available shot, stretch the floor with three-point shooters to make room for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to operate via the pick-and-roll and get easy transition buckets.
Unfortunately, Gasol isn't able to do any of these.
Gasol used to be one of the most proficient big men in running and finishing in transition. However, his achy knees have made it quite a struggle for Gasol to keep up with D'Antoni's hectic pace.
Despite having a very good mid-range game for a big man, Gasol doesn't stretch the floor enough in the half-court set to fit in well as a prototypical D'Antoni power forward.
It is apparent that not only does Gasol's skill set not match up well with D'Antoni's system in the half-court set, his knees also prevent him from contributing on the fast break as well.
Without the ability to be effective in the post or the legs to push the break, Gasol's own injuries and D'Antoni's system are clearly mitigating his overall effectiveness.
Gasol is averaging 12.2 points on 41.6 shooting from the field. While averaging career lows in both points and field-goal percentage, Gasol's 0.4 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game also match his career lows in both categories.
The statistics show that not only is the system dampening his production on offense, the injuries and dwindling production has also made him less effective on the defensive end. Although his 8.4 rebounds per game are still decent for a big man, his rebounding numbers haven't been this low in four seasons.
Although it is optimistic to expect that Gasol's talent should right the ship once his injury problems are fixed, it is most realistic to expect a defensive upgrade rather than an increase in offensive production if Gasol is able to recover from his injuries.
D'Antoni's system prevents Gasol from averaging the scoring numbers he is used to. The only way for Gasol to become productive and effective once more is to allow his injuries to fully recover and focus on locking down his man, playing smart help defense and rebounding the ball on both ends of the floor.
Statistics are accurate as of Jan. 12, 2013.
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